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College Football 2014: What We Learned In Week 1

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Week 1 is (nearly) in the books and the season got off to an exciting start with lots of top teams playing closer-than-expected games. Here are some things we learned this week.

The Top Ten Has a Lot of Question Marks

While there were no major upsets this weekend, that’s not to say that we didn’t see some red flags surrounding some of the nation’s top teams. Top-ranked Florida State never trailed, but never could put away unranked Oklahoma State. The Seminoles, who led the nation in scoring defense last year, gave up 31 points to a young Cowboys team and led by just three until getting two quick scores late in the fourth quarter.  No. 2 Alabama gave up 365 passing yards in a 33-23 win over West Virginia. No. 7 UCLA, which ranked 20th nationally in scoring last season, scored just seven offensive points and need two pick-sixes and a fumble return for a touchdown to get past Virginia, 28-20. And playing its first game without injured quarterback Braxton Miller, No. 5 Ohio State trailed Navy at halftime before pulling away in the fourth quarter. While some of this may just be first-game jitters and these powerhouses may return to form, these early struggles still will raise some eyebrows.

Texas A&M Rolls On the Road

One game won’t make people forget Johnny Football, but sophomore Kenny Hill showed that he can step into Manziel’s shoes and keep the Aggies in the SEC hunt. The sophomore threw for a school-record 511 yards and three touchdowns in leading A&M to a 52-28 road upset of No. 9 South Carolina. The Aggies rolled up 680 yards of total offense, the most ever given up by South Carolina. The Gamecocks’ young defense gave up scores on five of A&M’s first six possessions and never really gave their offense a chance, despite four touchdown passes from new quarterback Dylan Thompson. While it might be a little too early to anoint A&M just yet, only three other teams in history have managed to score 52+ points against a Steve Spurrier-coached team. Those three (1995 Nebraska, 2008 Florida and 2010 Auburn) all went on to win the national title.

Star Running Backs Made Their Mark

While the Heisman Trophy has been a quarterback club in recent years, a handful of the nation’s elite running backs are making some noise that could help break that streak. Georgia’s Todd Gurley scored four touchdowns and set a school record with 293 all-purpose yards in the No. 12 Bulldogs’ win over No. 16 Clemson. Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah, the nation’s top returning rusher, gashed Florida Atlantic for a career-high 232 yards in less than three quarters of play as the No. 22 Cornhuskers rolled up a Big Ten-record 784 yards of offense. And Alabama’s duo of TJ Yeldon and Derrick Henry slashed West Virginia for 239 yards and two touchdowns. With a few more big performances and their teams continuing to rack up wins, a running back could be a serious threat to take home the hardware this year.

Everett Golson is Back

After being suspended for all of the 2013 season due to academic misconduct, Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson, who led the No. 17 Fighting Irish to the 2012 national championship game, showed no signs of rust in his return to action. Golson threw for 295 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for three more scores against Rice. He is just the third Notre Dame quarterback in history to rush for three touchdowns.

Quick Hits

  • With No. 13 LSU overcoming a 17-point deficit to Wisconsin, Les Miles has still never lost in a season opener or to a nonconference opponent in the regular season.
  • Under new coach Steve Sarkisian, USC rolled up 702 yards of total offense against Fresno State, the Trojans’ most since 2005—when Sarkisian was USC’s quarterbacks coach under Pete Carroll.
  • Florida State’s win over Oklahoma State gave the Seminoles their 17th consecutive win, tying a school record.
  • After going 1-11 last season, Cal’s win over Northwestern was the Bears’ first victory over an FBS opponent since October 2012.
  • Florida’s season opener against Idaho was cancelled after lightning delayed the start and heavy rain rendered the field unplayable. The two teams do share a bye week October 25, but no official make-up date has been announced.
  • It’s only Week 1, but it might not be too early to go ahead and give Nebraska’s Jordan Westerkamp (remember, the same guy who caught the Hail Mary against Northwestern last year?) the “Catch of the Year” trophy.

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